What science and engineering means: Discourses of young children across the world. By Lorraine Kisselburgh, Patrice Buzzanell and Brenda Berkelaar.

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In this presentation, we review the findings of a 2-year cross-cultural research program in which we interviewed over 800 young children (K-4) in four countries—the United States, China, Belgium, and …

In this presentation, we review the findings of a 2-year cross-cultural research program in which we interviewed over 800 young children (K-4) in four countries—the United States, China, Belgium, and Lebanon—about the meanings of science and engineering work and careers. Our project focused on how meanings of work in STEM are discursively created, and examined cross-cultural, gender, and class differences in career and work socialization. This research offers communicative perspectives about the challenges of gender representation and the gendered organizing and career processes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) areas.

Some themes we will review regarding the discourses of these children include:
1. The discursive intersections of imagination and material realities;
2. The contradictory discourses regarding occupational status and stigma; and
3. The cultural influences of honor and duty to one’s family or country

We discuss these findings in terms of the theoretical contributions they make to career and occupational socialization theory. In examining the constructed nature of STEM work, and its meaningfulness to different developmental, gender and cultural groups, we highlight how meanings of work, context, and career socialization operate synergistically to shape children’s understandings of work. We also invite discussion of how the research findings can be translated into practical changes to early messages about work and careers, in order to “change the conversation” and shape new futures for young women in STEM careers.

We believe these findings provide unique insights into early developments in children’s anticipation of and socialization into STEM work and careers, and enable comparison of national, cultural, class, and developmental discourses. The findings have important implications for understanding the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers, and the class and cultural differences in young children’s conceptualizations of such work.

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  • INTRODUCTION:In the 21st century (knowledge economy), STEM careers ….(get stats)….will represent a significant part of the economic/workforce globally/worldwide – biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, biostatistics, computer graphics and visualization ….represent some of the most exciting careers of this next generation.STEM careers and the underrepresentation of womenInteresting patterns, but not universal (national differences)As organizational communication scholars we have an opportunity to examine this issue from a unique perspective – specifically what discourse tells us about the meaning of work, and how these discourses intersect with cultural … …..(culturally, developmentally)…The scope of our research is a large scale study of children’s discourse in 4 countriesToday, then, I am discussing the results of one of the first analyses of this work – specifically the U.S. and China data.….. We are discussing: how children talk about work – what this discourse tells us about how children construct the meaning of work – and how these discourses are embedded in larger societal Discourses. These have theoretical interest to us as organizational communication scholars regarding both cultural contexts as well developmental antecedents to career decisions, and also practical implications in addressing message constructions that made address critical shortages of women in science and engineering careers.
  • Theoretical interest
  • Theoretical interest(govt/cultural: e.g. China one-child policy changes national and familial Discourses about e.g. national economic goals in Mauritius may drive entire generations to …..opportunities Malaysia can frame computing as “cool” for girls as well as boys
  • Theoretical interest:Discourse theory ….. Underlying conceptualizations…. career theory
  • This question enables explorations of several exemplars that provide fairly consistent themes about memorable messages and stories related to anticipatory occupational and career processes. These exemplars depict developmental, educational, media, and socio-cultural influences (see Kisselburgh et al., 2009). By creating this linkage and framework, we expand our understanding of how discourses, particularly memorable messages, of work and career can be enlarged to include different opportunities such as work in STEM areas.
  • 3, now 4 countriesChildren in PreK – 4th grade (roughly 4-10 years of age)Talked to approximately 200 children in each country
  • 3, now 4 countriesChildren in PreK – 4th grade (roughly 4-10 years of age)Talked to approximately 200 children in each country
  • Emphasis: adults, primarily in Western cultures; Some work on occupational prestige and social valuation in children (Fisher & Missouri University, Columbia, 1969; Helwig, 2001; Lefebvre & Bohn, Jr., 1971; Simmons, 1962)noxious (dirty or dangerous) conditions servile or demeaning relationshipmorally or socially tainted
  • Police work, military appointments, and engineering most commonly identified dangerous work
  • We illustrate here, not only the little “d” discourse of young children as they talk about careers, and what that tells us about how they conceptualize work and sci/engin work specifically, but also the big “d” discourses that clearly influence these conceptualizations, and provide discursive opportunities, resources, and positionings. Context (cultural, familial, historical) Local context – availability of and saturation of discursive images that provide …..Cultural context – individual / communitarianHistorical context – China Olympics possibly re-infused nationalism and honor Process FinalDiscourse enables children to imagine exciting…..these have material consequences and realities for work, and the individuals who perform such work
  • Produce proportionally larger numbers of engineersChinese adults consider it high status workPotentially illustrative of mechanistic, blue-collar notions of engineeringConcrete associationsMedia coverageEngineers as supervised by bankers, senior managers, and others
  • We invite discussion of how the research findings can be translated into practical changes to early messages about work and careers, in order to “change the conversation” and shape new futures for young women in STEM careers.

Transcript

  • 1. What science and engineering means:
    Discourses of young children across the world
    Purdue ADVANCE Symposium 2010
    Lorraine Kisselburgh,
    Brenda Berkelaar,
    & PatriceBuzzanell
    Purdue University
  • 2. Acknowledgments
    Grant support:
    Purdue University College of Engineering’s INSPIRE (Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning) program
    Research assistance:
    Rebecca Dohrman
    U.S.: Colleen Arendt, Suzy D’Enbeau, Erin Doss, Ashley Duff, Jeremy Fike, Natalie Litera, and Jasmine Tan
    China: Wufeng Tan, YiwenShen, and facilitators in Beijing
    Belgium: Steven Eggermont (KUL), and facilitators in Leuven
    Lebanon: Abrar el-Abiad
  • 3.
  • 4. Goals and Approach
    Goals
    expand understanding of how discourse influences work and occupational socialization at early ages (contribute a communicative approach to career theory and practices)
    Build empirical basis for modification of the language used to discuss careers in science, engineering, and technology (STEM)
    Approach
    explore message constructions and overarching Discourses or cultural formations in which such messages are rooted
    examine the processual nature whereby the meaningfulness of career and work are created (Cheney, Zorn, Planalp, & Lair, 2008)
  • 5. Literature
    STEM occupations and careers
    Occupational trends project shortage in STEM careers (Phipps, 2008) affecting national economies and global competitiveness
    Underrepresentation of women in STEM careers continues, and in U.S. has changed only slightly in 20 years, esp. Eng and CS
    Reasons for underrepresentation
    Too few entering the pipeline (at college level)
    Too many leaving the pipeline (at career level)b/c climate (Faulkner, 2007; Hewlett, Luce, & Servon, 2008; Trower & Chait, 2002; Valian, 1999)
    Research on children’s perceptions of STEM has been limited to middle/high school levels, where choices are already sedimented
  • 6. Literature
    STEM occupations and careers
    Occupational socialization of young children
    Girls and boys differently socialized into occupations (Etzkowitz, Kemelgor, & Uzzi, 2000; Hall, 2002; Margolis & Fisher; 2002; Valian, 1999)
    Children self-limit occupational choices at early ages (Etzkowitz et al., 2000; Gottfredson, 1981, 2002; Helwig, 2004)
    By grades 8-12, career interests are well established in ways that are gendered, raced, and classed (Bell & Nkomo, 2001; Fels, 2004; Gallos, 1989; Hall, 2002; Klawe, 2006; Weinger, 1998; Willis, 1977)
    Occ’l socialization is a discursive process, shaped by indirect, direct, absent, and ambient messages (Dallimore, 2003; Jablin, 2001; Kisselburgh, Berkelaar, & Buzzanell, 2009; Lucas, 2006)
    …and differently shaped by govt’l, media, and cultural Discourses (Adams et al., 2003; Lagesen, 2008; Liu, 2006)
  • 7. Literature
    STEM occupations and careers
    Occupational socialization of young children
    Meaning of work and career
    Discursive construction of meaning(fulness) of work and its materiality (Ashcraft & Mumby, 2004; Cheney et al., 2008; Kuhn et al., 2009; Meisenbach, 2008)
    Memorable messages influence:
    newcomers’ organizational socialization (Stohl, 1986)
    adult recollections of talk about jobs (Lucas, 2006)
    adults’ recall of work-family messages (Medved et al, 2006)
    How children recall such career messages is unknown
  • 8. Research question
    How do young children talk about the meanings and meaningfulness of work and career (particularly engineering work)?
    How are these discourses influenced culturally and developmentally?
  • 9. Methods & Analysis
    Study design
    Our intent: conduct a pilot study.
    The result: 7 researchers, 25 interviewers, 10 school administrators, 42 teachers, 3 translators, 1 transcriber, in 4 countries, speaking 4 languages, over 18 months, with data gatheredfrom over 800 children!
  • 10. Methods & Analysis
    Study design
    4 countries: U.S., Belgium, China, and Lebanon
    ICA 2009 Chicago
  • 11. Methods & Analysis
    Study design
    4 countries
    2 schools
    6 grades PreK – 4
    Cell: 3 focus groups and 4 indiv interviews (n~=25)
    ~150 children / country
    Lebanon
  • 12. Methods & Analysis
    Study design
    Participants & Procedures
    N~=800 children (PreK-4) in U.S., China Belgium, & Lebanon, voluntary and informed
    Randomly assigned to focus groups or interviews
    Sessions recorded, then professionally translated and transcribed
    900 pages of single spaced text
    Analysis (we review 3 here)
    Inductive thematic analysis
    Exemplars
    textual units representative of data, consistent within a particular group, and particularly vivid (Gee, 1986; Mishler)
    Text re-read using exemplars as framework; constant compare, refined
  • 13. Review of themes
    Discursive intersections of imagination and material realities;
    Cultural influences of honor and duty to one’s family or country
    Contradictory discourses of occupational status and stigma;
  • 14. Themes
    The discursive intersections of imagination and material realities
  • 15. Role models and superheroes
    Everyday heroes and role models influence the meaning and value of work
  • 16. Role models and superheroes
    “I would like to be…a firefighter to save people, help them” (US Gr2 boy);
    “I wanna be a police officer…[to] help people stay safe” (US Gr3 boy);
    “I want to catch the bad guys” (China K boy).
    Everyday heroes and role models influence the meaning and value of work
    I want to be an astronaut, like my mother.
  • 17. Role models and superheroes
    “I would like to be…a firefighter to save people, help them” (US Gr2 boy);
    “I wanna be a police officer…[to] help people stay safe” (US Gr3 boy);
    “I want to catch the bad guys” (China K boy).
    Everyday heroes and role models influence the meaning and value of work
    Superstars (media) and superheroes (play) provide discursive opportunities to position & explore values, roles, & work
    Discourses reflect material realities of need for power, control, & (phys/fin) security
    I want to be an astronaut, like my mother.
  • 18. Role models and superheroes
    “I would like to be…a firefighter to save people, help them” (US Gr2 boy);
    “I wanna be a police officer…[to] help people stay safe” (US Gr3 boy);
    “I want to catch the bad guys” (China K boy).
    Everyday heroes and role models influence the meaning and value of work
    Superstars (media) and superheroes (play) provide discursive opportunities to position & explore values, roles, & work
    Discourses reflect material realities of need for power, control, & (phys/fin) security
    I want to be an astronaut, like my mother.
    I: So why [are] people your age so interested in being sports players?
    B1: because …they see it on TV, like Michael Jordan and all them-
    B2: …like when the Colts won the SuperBowl … they be like “dang they can get all that stuff,” like … a football with diamonds all over it.
  • 19. Role models and superheroes
    “I would like to be…a firefighter to save people, help them” (US Gr2 boy);
    “I wanna be a police officer…[to] help people stay safe” (US Gr3 boy);
    “I want to catch the bad guys” (China K boy).
    Everyday heroes and role models influence the meaning and value of work
    Superstars (media) and superheroes (play) provide discursive opportunities to position & explore values, roles, & work
    Discourses reflect material realities of need for power, control, & (phys/fin) security
    I want to be an astronaut, like my mother.
    I: So why [are] people your age so interested in being sports players?
    B1: because …they see it on TV, like Michael Jordan and all them-
    B2: …like when the Colts won the SuperBowl … they be like “dang they can get all that stuff,” like … a football with diamonds all over it.
    Role models & heroes carry imaginative potential for children in communicating meaningful work & its practices
  • 20. Themes
    The cultural influences of honor and duty to one’s family or country
  • 21. Honor…tofamily & country
    Why work is meaningful
    in China: stories reflect early socialization into belief that one works as a means of honor (to one’s country, one’s family, or for the honor inherent in being a good worker)
  • 22. Honor…tofamily & country
    B: I want to be a world champion of ping-pong.
    I: Why?
    B: Because table tennis is the national ball (sport) of China. So I will be very proud if I can be a world champion of ping-pong.
    I: Be proud of yourself or make China be proud of you?
    B: It is very honorable to earn honor for the mother country.
    …..
    I: Have you ever thought why your parents have jobs?
    B: They want me to serve our country. They work to provide me good study conditions…earn money to make me able to study good…and then I can serve the country…it is worthy to spend this money.
    Why work is meaningful
    in China: stories reflect early socialization into belief that one works as a means of honor (to one’s country, one’s family, or for the honor inherent in being a good worker)
  • 23. Honor…to community
    (First grade boys and girls)
    G: If you really want to know, I would love to work in policy.

    B: I know what means a judge.
    I: … what does a judge do?
    B: He does lawmaking.
    …..
    I: Why do you want to be a doctor?
    B: To help people and have a good community.

    I: Why do you think people work?
    B: To have a good community and to help people.
    In Lebanon, ravaged by war and continuing border threats,
    discourses reflect a desire to serve, protect, & heal people in Lebanon
    Children talk about military careers, helping to rebuild communities, and entering health and teaching professions.
     Honor is a powerful, early shaper of meaningful work in certain cultures
  • 24. Themes
    The contradictory discourses of occupational status and stigma
  • 25. “Dirty Work”
    Definition: Work considered physically dirty, dangerous, or demeaning or morally or socially questionable, tainted, and/or stigmatizing(e.g., Ashforth & Kreiner, 1999; Drew, Mills, & Gassaway, 2007; Hughes, 1951, 1958, 1962; Smith, 1776;Tracy & Clifton, 2006).
    3K/3D: “kitanai, kiken, and kitsui” (3K) (Mori, 1997;Tullao & Cortez, 2004; Ylangan, 2007)
    Developmental perceptions of danger:concrete, external and physical threats abstract, internal threats (Lieberman & Van Horn, 2008)
  • 26. Careers as dirty, dangerous, and demanding
    First, it’s dirty. Second, it’s dangerous. Third, it’s insulting.” 3rd grade girl, mixed focus groupChild: It’s a very tiring job, covering both physical and brain work. For the latter, sometimes you have to burn the midnight candle to draw blueprints, for example the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium. For the former, you run your legs to the bone, making field investigation for further analysis and decision. How weary it is! - 4th grade boy, interview
    Interviewer: Do you want to be an engineer?
    Girl: No.
    Interviewer: Why not?
    Girl: I am worried about my safety. Even though engineers wear motorcycle safety helmets, they will be hurt if there is some heavy things falling down. - 4th grade girl
  • 27. Careers as dirty, dangerous, and demanding
    Scientific work also considered dangerous
    Girl: Scientist….I have thought to be a scientist. But now I think it is also difficult to be a scientist. Although I like the science class, it is dangerous to be a scientist. If you are careless there may be an explosion during an experiment.Child 1: I don’t want to be a scientist. I’ve read science fiction about scientists and aliens. It said that a scientist was threatened by those aliens and gave up his job as a scientist.
  • 28. Alternate perceptions to dangerous work
    Appealing when child is in control of the danger: protecting self or others (e.g., police or military work)
    I just want to be a woman police to fight bad guys. - Pre-school girlYou have to train yourself from very young. If you do not train yourself properly and you are in a fight and you do not know how to use your guns, you will lose your ground. - Kindergarten boy, interview
    Repellant when child felt fear or concern of bodily harm (e.g., engineering)
  • 29. Discussion
    Imagination is sparked in early ages, and influenced by portrayals of work (in both fantasy, media, and everyday life) that children use to begin forming and negotiating identities and aspirations about work
    Cultural, national, gender, and class differences create a complex and interconnected system of d/Discourses that influence the meaning of work for young children, and may account for differences in educational and career choices
    Material realities frame the meanings/values that children associate with work
    lower socioeconomic children frame work in instrumental ways (work to buy food); others frame it symbolically (serving society or one’s country)
  • 30. Discussion
    Discursive and material conditions limit and enhance work, job, and career possibilities
    Linguistic choices and meaning accompanying occupations, like engineers
    Experiences with occupations and people who work in diverse jobs
    Context functions socioeconomically, nationally, and culturally
    Cultural/National Discourses: China Olympics (rise nationalism); U.S. Space Race 60’s (rise in STEM)
    Local contexts (schools with rich visual imagery and displays) provide discursive resources that children use
  • 31. Contributions
    Conceptualizations of engineering and its meanings differ across the lifespan especially as they intersect with culture
    Expands meaning(ful) work research to include developmental and cultural discourses
    Expands career socialization research to include macro- and micro-processes
    Foundation for future occupational socialization research to expand understanding of career and occupational prestige
  • 32. Implications
    Children’s discourses indicates that by 1st grade many have select in / out of certain kinds of work
    Consistent with Gottfredson’s circumscription theory and Hellwig, children limit options early and may fail to explore /discover talents
    Concrete experiences or strong visualizations--and the need for them--are consistent throughout data
    E.g., data from China regarding engineers, the language of engineering, and its association with construction, and the media images that they heard/saw of construction workers falling
    Need for research on framing and reframing of early career imagery and on use of reflection for children’s early career aspirations
    Culture, gender, and class factors are marked linguistically in children’s talk and memorable messages highlight possibilities for interventions in message construction
  • 33. Translational – changing the conversation
  • 34. Lorraine Kisselburgh
    lorraine@
    Patrice Buzzanell
    buzzanel@
    BreandaBerkelaar
    bberkela@
    Purdue University